The Colorado Rapids 2 began their initial MLS Next Pro campaign under a warm Spring Sunday at their home stadium on the campus of the University of Denver. Facing a Sporting Kansas City II side, coached by Rapids-alum Benny Feilhaber, it was a good mix of experience led by hometown guy Dillon Serna and recently added young players like Yaya Toure, Darren Yapi and Anthony Markanich that fans have been anxious to see in action. Rapids 2 won their debut match 1-1, after besting SKC on PKs.
SKC almost jumped on top after captain Abe Rodriguez misplayed a ball in front of his goal, but the shot sailed high from the right. Colorado kept good pressure for most of the first 15 minutes, earning multiple corner kicks and producing their best early look on goal in the 16th minute, but the glancing header went just over the crossbar.
Colorado’s Yosuke Hanya then did an excellent job to keep the ball alive along the end line before spotting Toure in the middle. Yaya then slid left to Serna for the blast, which was saved in play out front. The subsequent ball fell to Aguirre inside the penalty area, but his absolute rocket was stopped by a diving save from SKC’s John Pulskamp’s to his left.
SKC couldn’t push much into Colorado’s defending third as the half wore on. The Rapids 2 back five kept play in front and did a nice job of keeping the area clean. In the 38th minute, Sebastian Anderson drilled a dangerous freekick for Colorado on the left to the far post, but Pulskamp tipped away the danger again for a corner kick.
The Rapids 2 turned the pressure up a notch in the 40th minute, when a long ball down the middle found Yapi behind his defender 1v1 with the keeper in the box. However, after some contact, and Yapi going down, the referee allowed play to continue. A similar ball in the 41st minute again got over the head of SKC’s defender for Toure this time. His blast was deflected out for one of many Colorado corner kicks.
SKC finally answered directly afterward as a ball down the right side was sent goalward. A deflection took the shot dangerously close to the far post but out for a corner kick and no trouble for Rodriguez.
The second half saw a bit of a dicey play for Colorado almost cost them in the first 5 minutes. Mayaka’s backpass was short of its target and SKC, seeing Rodriguez pushed up for possession, tried to chip the Rapids 2 keeper. The ball went wide though and play resumed. On the ensuing goal kick, Yapi received a nice ball running through on goal. As he was aiming to get around the keeper, there was contact, but again the referee whistled play on and SKC’s keeper held on to the ball in the box.
Mayaka created what was a golden chance in the 57th minute, as he gathered in the middle just outside SKC’s box before slipping a pass ahead for Yapi. The tall striker took his touch, but the shot was blasted high from 12 yards out.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 61st minute for the first-ever Rapids 2 goal as Hanyapicked up a ball in the middle of the pitch 30 yards out. After a touch to his right, he blasted a shot from just outside the box and beat Pulskamp inside the near post and the 1-0 lead.
The 79th minute saw SKCII grab the equalizer from close range by Tijani Fatah. That proved the final factor in taking the match to the deciding PKs for the extra point in the home draw for Colorado, as they were unable to grab a second late in the half.
MLS Next Pro is using a bit of a different system to award an extra point in case of draws. A penalty-kick shootout concludes any tie after regulation, with the winning side being awarded an extra point. Anderson, Serna, Markanich, and Yapi all cooly converted their spot-kicks for Colorado, while Rodriguez saved SKC’s first two chances to gain the Rapids 2 the extra point on the night and two in their first match of 2022.
Colorado Rapids 2 will travel to St. Louis and face off against CITY2 on Sunday, April 3. The Rapids are in the Frontier Division with Sporting. The Rapids ended the day with 2 points, the SKC’s 1.